Starting March 12, Masks Will Not Be Required, but Encouraged, for California Schoolchildren

"After March 11, in schools and child care facilities, masks will not be required but will be strongly recommended," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a joint statement from all three West Coast governors.

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State health officials announced on Monday that March 12 will be the end date for the indoor mask mandate at schools across California. 

The updated policy is part of a broader update to health guidance around the COVID-19 pandemic, softening the mandate to a recommendation and for all individuals -- vaccinated and unvaccinated -- on March 1. The update was jointly announced by governors in California, Oregon and Washington in a Monday statement.

“With declining case rates and hospitalizations across the West, California, Oregon and Washington are moving together to update their masking guidance,” the three Democratic governors said jointly in a statement.

Masks will no longer generally be required indoors for unvaccinated individuals as of Tuesday. Instead, they are "strongly recommended for all individuals in most indoor settings."

And next Friday in California, that will include children in school and daycare settings.

"After March 11, in schools and child care facilities, masks will not be required but will be strongly recommended," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in the joint statement.

The West Coast now joins the likes of New York, the nation's largest school district, which announced over the weekend that it is set to lift its school mask mandate on March 7th.

Over the weekend, SoCal residents had mixed feelings about the anticipated announcement.

“I’m not upset by it, everybody has a choice to protect their children,” said Nena Cruz.

“Of course it still worries me, you can still catch it whether you are vaccinated or not, wear a mask or not,” Cruz said. 

The controversy around masks for schoolchildren began last spring, when children went back into the classrooms for in person instruction.

Parents, teachers and students were having heated debates at board meetings over the face coverings.

Now, two years into the pandemic, medical experts are taking another hard look at whether school kids should still be masking up.

“When you breathe the air comes back warm and gives you a headache,” said Lily, Cruz’s 8-year-old daughter. 

Lily admits that wearing a mask throughout the school day is no fun but she says she does it for one reason.

“It keeps you safe,” she said.

Yet with COVID cases on a downward trend, California health officials say they’re ready to set new guidelines that downgrade the indoor mask mandate in classrooms to a strong recommendation.

However, the updated guidance does not mean Californians should throw out their masks entirely.

"Masks will still be required for everyone in high transmission settings like public transit, emergency shelters, health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and long-term care facilities," Newsom said in his Monday statement.

The new guidance doesn't override local mask mandates, Newsom added.

"As always, local jurisdictions may have additional requirements beyond the state guidance," he said.

However, the LA County Department of Public Health said on Monday that it will align with state guidance.

"LA County Public Health will align school masking measures with the state and shift to strongly recommending indoor masking requirements at childcare sites and K-12 schools beginning March 12," the department said in a statement.

"School districts may continue to require masking at schools and during school activities and are encouraged to consult with teachers, staff, parents and students as they consider the appropriate safety protections for their school community, recognizing that many individuals may want to continue additional protections."

While many are looking forward to their kids ditching the mask, English High School teacher Logan Schreiner doesn’t feel it’s the right time just yet. 

“Middle of the school year, changing big policies is always kinda stressful,”  Schreiner said.

Schreiner just returned to work from paternity leave, and with two unvaccinated children at home, one of them a newborn, the latest news is unsettling.

“There’s still been surges with the holidays, you just never know. I’d like to keep things constant for the rest of the school year,” Schreiner said.

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